Stephen Wangh, renowned playwright, director, author and teacher of acting, is currently doing a workshop at The Freedom Theatre School. Wangh was trained in 1967 by Jerzy Grotowski and is the author of An Acrobat of the Heart, a physical approach to acting inspired by the work of Jerzy Grotowski (2000) and The Heart of Teaching: Empowering Students in the Performing Arts (2012).
Wangh’s work with the Theatre School students started with exploring the connection between the body, images and emotions.
“Although the work seems to be very physical in the beginning, the physical work is a doorway into the actor’s emotional life. It is a way of encountering one’s hesitations and blockages and noticing that beneath and beyond those, is great emotional freedom”, says Wangh. “We all knew that as children but as adults we have put it away. Grotowski called it the ‘Via Negativa’; undoing rather than doing.”
The acting students have examined how to connect not only with themselves but also how to play with ‘the other’ – an acting partner, an image, or the audience.
Stephen Wangh’s voice training with the students began with laughter. “Laughter is not doing, it has to happen to you. Things happening to you are what we are looking for – whether in body, movement, image or sound”, says Wangh.
The students have also worked on monologues and now they will move into improvisation.
Of the teaching experience at The Freedom Theatre, Wangh says: “These students have an incredible level of energy and are very open to each of the steps that we take. They have all taken wonderful risks. Almost everyone began to do things that at first felt frightening or new.“
This is Stephen Wangh’s first time in Palestine. “I’ve been waiting to come here for many years. Being here is very moving and I can see how people feel the suffering of living here. The process of teaching has been very exciting for me. I have been teaching for 40 years, and without exaggeration I can say that this is the first time in 15 years that I’ve needed to invent new exercises because these people inspired me to. If I never teach again in my life I would feel that this was a good ending. I did something useful.”